Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fishing Throws Targeted Species Off Balance

18.04.2008
Fishing activities can provoke volatile fluctuations in the populations they target, but it's not often clear why. A new study published in the journal Nature by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and colleagues has identified the general underlying mechanism.

Research led at Scripps with a distinguished team of government and international experts (including two chief scientific advisors to the United Kingdom) demonstrates that fishing can throw targeted fish populations off kilter.

Fishing can alter the "age pyramid" by lopping off the few large, older fish that make up the top of the pyramid, leaving a broad base of faster-growing small younglings. The team found that this rapidly growing and transitory base is dynamically unstable-a finding having profound implications for the ecosystem and the fishing industries built upon it.

This schematic outlines variability on exploited and unexploited.
"The data show that fished species appear to be significantly more nonlinear and less stable than unfished species," said Professor George Sugihara of Scripps. "We think the mechanism involves systematic alteration of the demographic parameters-and especially increases in growth rates that magnify destabilization in many ways-which can happen as fishing truncates the age structure."

Imagine a container of water with a 500-pound fish. With food, it grows a little bigger. Without food it gets a bit smaller. Imagine the same container with 500 one-pound fish. They eat, reproduce and the resulting thousands of fish boom, quickly outstripping the resources and the population crashes. These many smaller fish-with the same initial "biomass" as the larger fish-can't average out the environmental fluctuations, and in fact amplify them through higher turnover rates that promote boom and bust cycles.

The study that included academic and government scientists from Alaska, Asia and Great Britain is based on data from the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), a program based at Scripps that has monitored fish and oceanographic activities of the California Current for more than 50 years. To arrive at their results, the researchers compared the CalCOFI records of larvae, a key indicator of adult populations, of both fished and non-fished species in the California Current.

The schematic outlines variability on exploited and unexploited.Fishing typically extracts the older, larger members of a targeted species and fishing regulations often impose minimum size limits to protect the smaller, younger fishes.

"That type of regulation, which we see in many sport fisheries, is exactly wrong," said Sugihara. "It's not the young ones that should be thrown back, but the larger, older fish that should be spared. Not only do the older fish provide stability and capacitance to the population, they provide more and better quality offspring."

Thus the danger, according to Sugihara, is that current policies that manage according to current biomass targets (without significant forecast skill) while ignoring fish size pose risks that can further destabilize the population. This instability can in principle propagate systemically to the whole ecosystem, much like a stock market crash or a domino effect, and magnify risk for the fishing industry itself as well as those of ecologically related fisheries.

This is especially true when trying to rebuild fish stocks, Sugihara says.

"This may be the most important implication of this work, as we attempt to rehabilitate fisheries," said Sugihara. "Regulations based solely on biomass harvest targets are incomplete. They must also account for age-size structure in the populations," he said. "Current policies and industry pressures that encourage lifting bans on fishing when biomass is rehabilitated-but where maximum age and size are not-contain risk."

This is currently the case with Atlantic swordfish, for which industry pressures to resume fishing are based on the restoration of historic biomass levels, even though the swordfish are clearly undersized.

"In the extreme case, the danger of such unstable dynamics for certain populations for management is that harvest targets may lag the population, potentially making things worse," said Sugihara. "A high harvest target may be set after an especially abundant period when the population may be poised to decline on it's own. Likewise future abundant periods may represent missed opportunities, despite current low abundances. As senior officials of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans have said, 'we are often a year behind in our stock projections.'"

Sugihara cautioned that nonlinearity is not unique to fished species. Nonequilibrium overshooting and undershooting occurs in unexploited stocks, but to a lower extent. Therefore, classical single-species population models that require equilibrium are unlikely to be very successful in stock forecasts, except perhaps in the very short term.

"Other methods that do not rely on these assumptions may be more promising," suggests Christian Anderson, paper co-author.

In addition to Sugihara and Anderson, the study included Scripps Oceanography Chih-hao Hsieh (now a professor at National Taiwan University); Stuart Sandin of Scripps; Roger Hewitt of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center; Anne Hollowed of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center; Sir John Beddington of Imperial College London (current Chief Science Advisor to the United Kingdom) and Lord Robert May of Oxford (a former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK).

The research was supported by NOAA Fisheries and the Environment program, The MacQuown Chair of Natural History, The Deutsche Bank - Jameson Complexity Studies Fund, the Sugihara Family Trust and the Kyoto University grant for Biodiversity Research of the 21st Century.

Mario Aguilera | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When corals eat plastics

24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure

24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering

First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR

24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>